Denzel Valentine

Shorthanded Michigan State steals a 71-69 overtime win over Iowa

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Michigan State, No. 7 team in the nation, was without Braden Dawson and Adreian Payne for the second straight game (sixth straight without Payne). Unlike, Saturday’s loss to in-state rival Michigan, the shorthanded Spartans stole one from No. 15 Iowa with a 71-69 road victory in overtime on Tuesday night.

Despite missing its top two rebounders, the Spartans matched the Hawkeyes on the glass with 38 boards each. There was a significant difference in free throw attempts with Iowa visiting the line 43 times (69.8 percent) to Michigan State’s 20 attempts (55 percent). Knocking down free throws became big for Iowa. For almost the final 10 minutes of regulation, all of Iowa’s points came from the line. That stretched into overtime until Roy Devyn Marble’s lay-in cut the lead to 71-69.

One of the best offenses in the nation shot 1-for-13 from the field in almost 15 minutes, which spanned the end of regulation and into overtime. Two missed Keith Appling free throws left the door open but Mike Gessell’s layup, as time expired, was no good.

Appling scored 12 points, and Gary Harris ended with nine; both of them logging 40 or more minutes. Appling made a big 3-pointer to put Michigan State up 64-63 in overtime. But several role players stepped up, and make critical plays when Michigan State needed them.

Denzel Valentine scored 12 points while Travis Trice added 10 off the bench, including three 3-pointers. The biggest 3-pointer came from Russell Byrd, who played 18 minutes on Tuesday night — he had played 22 minutes in the month of January entering the game. The junior, who has struggled with injuries in his time in East Lansing, drilled a corner three to put Michigan State up six.

The frontline was manned by Matt Costello, registered 11 points and 12 rebounds.

It was reported on Tuesday afternoon that Payne could return as early as Feb. 6 against Penn State. Even without Payne (and Dawson), Michigan State gutted out an overtime win against a talented, and deep Iowa team. Makes you wonder what this team is capable of in March with its full arsenal.

Michigan State travels to New York City to take on Georgetown in a non-conference clash at Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon. Iowa is back in action later on Saturday at Illinois.

Cody Riley cuts list to five schools

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Cody Riley has cut his list to five schools, according to Scout.com.

A four-star four man, Riley is now considering just UConn, Kansas, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC.

Ranked the No. 29 player in the Class of 2017 by Rivals, Riley is an undersized-but-powerful forward. His bread and butter is on the block, where his strength and low center of gravity make him a nightmare to deal with, but he’s also skilled enough to do damage as a face-up four.

Riley is from California and will be playing his senior season alongside Marvin Bagley III, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2018, at Sierra Canyon.

Auburn continues to stockpile talent, adds top 50 prospect in 2017

Bruce Pearl
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
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Auburn’s hire of Bruce Pearl was almost universally lauded as the first step towards the return of relevance for the Tiger basketball program.

And while the results have yet to shine through on the floor, Pearl is unequivocally stockpiling the kind of talent that will allow him to push for trips to the NCAA tournament and maybe one day contend for a league crown with Kentucky.

The latest step came on Sunday, when Pearl landed a commitment from Chuma Okeke, a top 50 wing prospect out of Georgia.

“He is a versatile wing who can handle and score,” said NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips. “Coming off of a big July, Okeke could move up the national rankings and Auburn pounced on him right away.”

Okeke joins big man Austin Wiley, a top ten player in the class, and Davion Mitchell, who is likely one of the five best point guards in the country, in what is currently the nation’s best recruiting class in 2017. That’s before you consider that Pearl already has Mustapha Heron, a top 25 prospect, joining the mix this season.

“This group has the makings of a monster recruiting class for Auburn,” Phillips said.

Okeke picked the Tigers over Florida State, Georgia and a number of other programs across the southeast.

VIDEO: Watch Virginia freshman Jay Huff dunk from the free throw line

Tony Bennett
AP Photo/Nell Redmond
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Jay Huff is a member of Tony Bennett’s best recruiting class to date, a 6-foot-11 top 50 recruit from North Carolina.

He also happens to be pretty athletic.

Don’t believe me?

Check out this video that McDonald’s All-American Kyle Guy tweeted out on Sunday night:

Yup, that’s Huff taking off from the foul line to dunk.

Not bad, young fella.

Seton Hall’s Derrick Gordon won’t pursue pro basketball to become a firefighter

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 12:  Derrick Gordon #32 of the Seton Hall Pirates celebrates after hitting a basket against the Villanova Wildcats during the Big East Basketball Tournament Championship at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2016 in New York City. Seton Hall Pirates defeated Villanova Wildcats 69-67.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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After a successful career that included stops at Western Kentucky, UMass and Seton Hall, Derrick Gordon, Division I college basketball’s first openly gay player, will not pursue professional opportunities and will instead become a firefighter.

The 6-foot-3 Gordon averaged 8.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a senior for the Pirates, helping the team reach the NCAA tournament during his graduate transfer year. By making the NCAA tournament with Seton Hall this past season, Gordon became the first college basketball player to reach the event with three different teams.

A tenacious perimeter defender who could have earned a pro contract if he stuck with basketball, Gordon will instead pursue a career as a firefighter in San Francisco.

“I’ve had an amazing basketball career and want to thank everybody who has always been there supporting me every step on the way,” Gordon said via his Instagram. “But I’m making a change in my career…I will now be working towards becoming a San Francisco Firefighter!! I’m excited about this and looking forward to having a long career!!”

While Gordon likely would have never made the NBA on talent alone, his defensive prowess would have likely given him a shot overseas or in the D League. It’s hard to say why Gordon is making this decision, but given what we saw with all of the attention surrounding Michael Sam when he tried to play in the NFL, Gordon was probably going to face a lot of scrutiny wherever he decided to play.

Hopefully Gordon finds his calling as a firefighter and brings the same energy and leadership that he brought on the floor to helping other people outside of basketball.

Washington guard Markelle Fultz pulls off sick spin and dunk at FIBA U18 Americas

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
Kelly Kline/Under Armour
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Washington incoming freshman guard Markelle Fultz is going to be one of the premier players in the country next season as his unique game is going to be fascinating to watch.

The 6-foot-5 Fultz is currently playing with the USA U18 team in Chile for the FIBA U18 Americas as he’s second on the team in scoring and first in assists as the Americans play Canada for the title on Saturday.

Against the host country, Fultz had an electric spin move in the paint and finished with an easy dunk. If you’re not willing to stay up late to watch this dude play this year, then set your DVRs, because Fultz is going to have some fun moments during the season.

(H/t: Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report)